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How Nintendo ‘Switched’ It Up in 2017



Happy Switch owners assemble! What do you hear? Concentrate. You might confuse this anomaly for the mumblings of a moody child when in actual fact it’s the sound of the subdued background noise of the Nintendo Switch naysayer. With the recent rumors that Mario Kart 8 Deluxe may have already sold over 1 million copies to date, and an overwhelmingly positive launch of 459,000 copies sold on launch day in North America alone (an incredible attach rate) this prolific series shows no signs of stagnation. The Switch can go on to boast how it plays host to the fastest selling Mario Kart game in the company’s history – another feather in Nintendo’s red cap. The Switch might not boast the biggest launch library, nor does it compare to the sheer number of titles being released on the competition’s platforms, but Nintendo have been smarter than the critics give them credit for.

Critics have a right to remain dubious of the classic Nebulous Nintendo’s business strategies; why cancel the hard-to-come-by NES mini and then release the New Nintendo 2DS? Why offer a month in which to play a free game before it’s deleted off the player’s system despite it, more than likely, being a game the player has already purchased on five previous Nintendo systems. The 3DS remaining a focal point for Nintendo despite it doing nothing to shine a light on the Switch’s identity within the current console market. All of these points invite skepticism, but the Nintendo Switch, on its own merits, has a very clear, balanced and appropriate approach for the fans in its first year.

Make no mistake, 2017 is not intended as the killer year for the Switch, it’s a year of a calibration and testing consumer adoption. 1-2 Switch inhabits the traditional role of the Nintendo-approved litmus paper – like Wii Sports and Nintendoland before it, 1-2 Switch puts the audience through its paces as the game introduces every facet of the system’s technological potential. Fun mini games though they may be, this is still a glorified tech-demo sold separately. It has it’s purpose and that’s fine, but ultimately it plays second fiddle to Nintendo’s modern masterpiece The Legend of Zelda: Breath Of the Wild.

“Launch our new console with our best game yet.” I’m sure this is what Nintendo said. This is what they did, and now they’re reaping those Zora-infused rewards. Zelda boasts a rich history of critical praise from industry professionals and fans alike, the latest iteration continued the flawless trend with an impressive 97/100 on Metacritic (Jim Sterling brought the overall score down from a monumental 98 after giving the game a 7/10, but it’s an opinion so let’s carry on with our lives). Its attach rate exceeds the already unsurmountable 100%, and while this might boggle the mind it can be explained by a general lack of Switches at launch, or the fact that super fans bought both the special and standard edition to quench their thirst for Nin-pletion. To summarize: more copies of Zelda have been sold than actual Switch hardware. As of 27th April, the Switch sold 2.74 million units compared to Zelda‘s 2.76 million units sold. Put all this information together and you’re guaranteed some maths.

This holiday season sees Nintendo put their iconic mascot up to the plate with the hotly-anticipated Super Mario Odyssey. The reinvigorated Nintendo of 2017 bookends the year with its most popular and well-received franchises, a confident move and a promise on their part to right the wrongs of the disastrous Wii U. Mario Kart 8 Deluxe joined the attachment rate party by selling 459,000 copies on launch day in North America, this basically means half of the install base in America bought their favorite kart racer on day one. If the Switch continues to sell as it is, and Nintendo think smart by offering consumers a bundle at Christmas featuring Mario Odyssey, said game could be the Switch’s highest selling title yet.

“But it’s a long time until the festivities begin.” I hear you say.  Nintendo have thought about this, and their resolve comes swift and fast like a Bullet Bill. ARMS, a new IP, and an opportunity for Nintendo to add its own spin on the fighting game genre, blends dynamic motion controls with the company’s usual blend of eccentricities to create a game that lives and dies by its controls. The resounding sigh from those unwilling to ‘be active’ may wish to reconsider their cynical assumptions when they get their hands on this wacky looking fighter. ARMS has the potential to branch out into a franchise, and to join the upper echelon of Nintendo’s most prized properties, but for now something new should always be welcomed.

Splatoon 2 is the sequel to yet another relatively new Nintendo property that saw success on the Switch’s predecessor. It’s huge popularity in Japan combined with its modest following in the UK and North America, and the Switch’s upward trajectory will help catapult the game into the spotlight of the masses. All of the games mentioned within this article reintroduce the character’s and their own unique properties to new and old Switch fans. The inclusion of Villager in Mario Kart should paint a picture of possibility around the idea of a long overdue console-based Animal Crossing. The popularity of Luigi continues even after the year of the eponymous character, maybe another Luigi’s Mansion is in the cards. Nintendo have a toy box packed with underutilized properties – early impressions of the Switch suggest Nintendo are going to unpack that toy box (yes, it will have Amiibo, but this is more of an analogy around Switch software than it is about actual toys).

Let’s not forget (and this is the real conclusion) the Switch actually works. Handheld mode with Mario Kart 8 deluxe is bliss. Tabletop mode with Mario Kart and a friend works – and people do play the Switch in public, I have seen it, it is a real, living (thankfully not breathing) thing. Traditional television mode works. The Switch works and that is more than could be said for the Fisher Price “My First Tablet, ages 4 and up” Wii U Gamepad.

Films, games and music: the big three! If you like any of these, chances are we're going to get on just fine. I'm just a balding, goggle-eyed 26-year old Masters graduate from the UK, and I'm here to talk games! Let's dance.